Rated: PG-13 - Running Time: 1:38 - Released 4/17/98

They just can't stop doing it. Those Hollywood people just have to make sequels, no matter how ill-advised the project may be. Major League: Back To The Minors is well named, because everything about it is minor. Minor laughs, minor plot, minor connection to the first two movies, minor participation from the original cast. Apart from Corbin Bernsen, Bob Uecker, and a few other (minor) characters, there's little to convince one that this movie has anything to do with either of its much more amusing predecessors, Major League (1989) or Major League II (1994).

The plot of this no-hitter centers around Gus Cantrell (Scott Bakula), a washed-up pitcher who is asked to coach a minor league farm team owned by his old acquaintance, Roger Dorn (Bernsen). In the same story that we have seen in every baseball comedy since The Bad News Bears, Gus takes this non-descript Triple-A team called the Buzz, and transforms them from a bunch of bungling subhumans into a winning machine, eventually challenging the Minnesota Twins, the big-league team also owned by Dorn and coached by arrogant S.O.B. Leonard Huff (Ted McGinley).

This movie, written and directed by John Warren, suffers from a split personality. It doesn't seem to know whether it's a comedy or a serious sports story. Though all the players on the Buzz are strange for one reason or another, and they all engage in their own brands of ridiculous behavior, the coach (Gus) is written and played totally straight, as is his relationship with them. Not that they're funny, but they're supposed to be. The mutual animosity between the two coaches becomes quite bitter and nasty, and the tension we're supposed to feel during the final game, which was so well cultivated in the first two movies, is simply not present.

The only thing that makes this movie even slightly bearable as a comedy is Uecker, who is back in the booth doing his commentary alongside various stunned partners. He was one of the funny things in the other two films, and he's the only funny thing here. Not that his presence makes any sense. In the first two films, which were about the Cleveland Indians, he played their regular announcer. The Indians are never even mentioned here, but there he is in the booth, announcing for the Buzz. Was he busted down to the minors?

After I realized that this film has little to do with ML and MLII, I tried to judge it solely on its own merits. But as a free-standing work of cinema, it doesn't have the star power or the screenwriting to distinguish itself. Bakula's acting is adequate, but the story is largely misguided and uneventful. It's simply boring.

Major League: Back To The Minors lacks the humor and energy of its two namesakes, and it lacks the heart of, say, Bull Durham or A League Of Their Own. Warren, Bernsen, and the producers are just attempting to follow the money. Anyone paying to see this film because they liked the first two Major League movies is in for a big disappointment. Come to think of it, maybe there is a better title for this movie: Major Greed.

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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